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Murphy promises gun control, but for now reviews policies

February 24, 2018

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is vowing to sign gun control bills as part of campaign promise and in response to the fatal Florida school shooting, but for now he’s pledging a policy review and interstate cooperation over firearms.

The timing for when Murphy, a Democrat, might act on any bills is unclear. The Legislature has introduced at least two dozen measures related to firearms, many of which are aimed at controlling the use of guns, though some would expand gun-carrying rights.

Murphy hasn’t specified which bills he wants enacted first, and none of the proposals has made its way to his desk — yet.

Senate President Steve Sweeney says there’s no reason for the delay in posting the legislation for a vote other than working out the schedule.

Both Sweeney and fellow Democrat Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin appeared with Murphy recently at a Trenton news conference where the governor called for a review of a 2007 attorney general guideline mandating that law enforcement agencies maintain school-shooting procedures.

Murphy’s recent focus on gun control legislation stems from a campaign promise to enact “sensible” gun control legislation, including measures to ban high-caliber ammunition and require the use of so-called smart guns, which can be fired only in certain circumstances.

The first-term governor this week emphasized his agreement on the legislation with fellow Democrats who control the Legislature.

“I know that we’re all born under the same star here,” Murphy said. “To those who say there is nothing we can do, we are collectively committed.”

Murphy’s position contrasts with Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who left office this year and blocked Democratic efforts to tighten the state’s already strict rules. Christie vetoed legislation on smart guns and a ban on .50-caliber weapons.

Christie also loosened a regulation to make it easier for residents to carry handguns, but Murphy moved to undo Christie’s action in the first weeks of his administration.

Second Amendment rights advocates call Murphy’s agenda a futile attempt at stopping criminal behavior by instead limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens.

“Those bent on doing evil will not be stopped by all the gun bans in the world — they will either ignore them or find another tool,” said Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs.

Republicans, who are in the minority in the Legislature, and who stood with Christie on his vetoes, have little recourse to stop Murphy’s agenda, provided Democrats pass the bills he’s called for.

For now, Murphy is doing what he can without lawmakers. Aside from the regulatory rollback and the policy review, Murphy last week also joined the governors of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island to establish a coalition of like-minded states on gun control.

The governors have promised to expand existing efforts to share information on illegal guns, and ultimately make progress on gun safety measures where they contend the federal government has faltered.

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